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Transcript: Zimmer Addressed the Media Monday

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *

I thought it was a good team win last night. Our guys fought; a lot of guys sucked it up, we had some guys hurt at the end. We were gassed, we had a couple guys throw up on the sideline they were so out of juice. But we played with a lot of fortitude, toughness. Made enough plays to win the football game. I'm proud of the football team. Players win games, coaches don't win games. These guys played good all year long so that's why we've got 11 wins, because these guys go out and make plays.

Q: On the final Hail-Mary play, is that something you work on with your players, knowing where to go, or do those guys just understand the situation? Anthony Barr wound up in the end zone where you needed him to be.

A: That was one of the most impressive things to me of the night. As soon as the play before was over, and it was going eight, six, five, whatever it was, they took off and went back to the endzone. They knew it was the last play. I was going to call timeout if the clock wasn't going to run out, I thought the clock ran out so I didn't get it called. But I was going to call a timeout to make sure we got set up the right way. But yes, we work on that. 

Q: Did it look like the clock hit zero to you when they snapped the ball?

A: I'm looking at the clock, I'm looking at the quarterback. It's hard for me to tell.

Q: You have a lot of work to do obviously with such a short turn-around but did you get a chance to savor the victory?

A: There was a few hugs in the locker room. That's about it. We came back and went to work just like a normal week.

Q: When they started to make those charges late in the fourth quarter offensively, what goes through your mind as a defensive play caller?

A: That's a good question. I think every situation is different. The guys you're playing against, the quarterback obviously, but we tried to stay aggressive. I think we did a good job of when it got down in there, we played a little bit more coverage which took away some of their throws they were trying to make. Everson [Griffen] made an unbelievable sack on that one – great effort play. And there was a lot of that going on, there was a lot of great-effort things last night.

Q: You talked to us about the team being deserving of this opportunity. Can you expand on that?

A: Well, they've done everything I've asked them to do all year and we've won games. We were 10 and 5 going into the ballgame. People say who we beat or who we didn't beat or how we did this or how we did that, we deserved to do be in that position. We earned the right to play for the division title. The way we've played this year, it's not surprising to me. We've played good all year long.

Q: Do you think some of the veteran guys like Brian Robison, Riley Reiff and Adrian Peterson were able to savor the victory a little more?

A: They were excited that we won last night. You never know how many opportunities you get to get into the playoffs. You never know how many opportunities you're going to get. I've been in the NFL 22 years and won the Super Bowl my second year and haven't been back. It's awful hard and when you get these opportunities you have to try to take advantage of them. I think a lot of our older guys, as you said, understand that it doesn't come every day. Hopefully our young players when we continue on in the future they don't take this for granted. Just because they went 11-5 their rookie year doesn't mean they're entitled to do that. We've got to get back to work every time. 

Q: Given how long it took you to get to the position you're in today, getting the reigns of the team, how much personal satisfaction is there for you getting to the playoffs your second year?

A: I hope this is just a step, honestly. I don't want this to be the defining moment of my career, for sure. I hope that there's a lot more on the horizon. I hope that there's a lot more things to accomplish. I've been blessed with a lot of good coaches, been with a lot of good coaches, got a lot of good coaches here. And as I said before, players win games.

Q: Can you take us through your thought process at the end of the first half? You guys went for the fake punt earlier and you also gambled on fourth down. You guys tried drawing them offsides and ended up punting.

A: Yeah, I screwed it up to be honest with you. It was 4th down and I knew we couldn't clock the ball and I wanted to see where it was. I should have just let the clock run out.

Q: Would you have attempted a field goal at that point?

A: It was too far. I screwed it up. Then, I said "Let's try and draw them offsides and if we can't get them offsides, we have to punt." I jumped the gun on the timeout.

Q: Do you have to handle your quarterback differently than other players on the team when he makes a mistake?

A: I don't think so with Teddy [Bridgewater], no. You can be pretty direct with him. He understands when he screws up, too. Nah, I'm pretty equal opportunity. 

Q: Is there something Stefon Diggs has to do differently? He played well the three games coming into last night and did not follow up with a great performance.

A: Yeah. He [Teddy Bridgewater] just wasn't as sharp last night as he's been these last three weeks. I thought he moved in the pocket too much. He didn't take some of the easy throws he had. He may be trying to do a little too much, I don't know. I haven't really talked to him yet. I'll talk to him more this week. But he needs to play better.

Q: Early in the game, do you think Teddy Bridgewater was being a little too careful, overthrowing the ball a little bit?

A: I don't know. When we've practiced that to Jerick [McKinnon] he's hit him - every time he throws it perfectly to him.

Q: How much does the versatility Jerick McKinnon had in college play in to how you are able to develop his role in the offense now?

A: I think a lot. He's a really good athlete - good quickness, acceleration, catches the ball well. He's another matchup situation for us. He can run the ball good, too. He has good vision, acceleration. He's patient. He does a lot of good things. I really like him and he's a good kid. The guy is like always smiling and happy. He even makes me smile once in a while.

Q: How much of the game tape from the first meeting this season against Seattle will you watch this week?

A: A lot, a lot. Even when you're playing a division opponent, whether you win or lose, you go back and evaluate that game, along with all the other games, really. You try and figure out how they're trying to attack you or what you could have done better. Mistakes that you made in the ballgame that you need to correct. I'm sure their doing to the same thing, as well. Probably not as much since they pounded us like they did.

Q: Do you ever throw out game tapes and never look at them?

A: I might throw it out after the game and move on to something else, but since we're getting ready to play them again, they have to watch it again – with me.

Q: Did the players even watch the Seattle game time the first time, because it was that short week with Arizona the next week on Thursday night?

A: Yeah I don't think they watched it that much because we had the Thursday game. We always watch portions. The coaches will divide up a certain amount of plays that we need to get corrected. So they may not watch the entirety of the whole game but they will watch 1/3 of it or something like that.

Q: What kind of things can Nick Easton do for you and how much will you guys be missing a guy like that?

A: Rhett [Ellison] is a guy who can really do an awful lot of things. He helps in protection and helps with blocking in the running-game. He has done a good job, really, with everything. He is a smart guy. We're going to miss him. Rhett is a good football player and probably even a better person. 

Q: Will Rhett Ellison need surgery?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the timetable on recovery with Rhett Ellison's injury?

A: Six months.

Q: How do you feel Xavier Rhodes did in last night's game?

A: I thought he did well. I thought he probably played one of his better games. I thought we covered all of their receivers well. We didn't give them a lot of room to create separation. I thought we pressed them good. I thought Xavier played well.

Q: Xavier Rhodes has been improving his play in the past couple of games with less penalties, what kind of things has he changed technique wise during the season?

A: Really technique, just doing the things the right way. He's not grabbing. He uses an open hand now as opposed to grabbing jersey, doesn't get his other hand involved as much when guys make cuts opposite of his body position, a lot of things like that.

Q: Through the regular season, how would you assess the play of the offensive line this season?

A: We can continue to do better. It's not just the offensive line, but we can do a lot better. I think they've improved. They've still have a lot of work to do. We're not where I would like to be, but one thing that they have done, I think, really well is that they've battled, they've battled. They have fought and competed but we can do a lot better.

Q: How much can MyCole Pruitt slide in and do some of the things that Rhett Ellison is doing? How much do you have to alter things based on Rhett being out?

A: MyCole [Pruitt] can do quite of bit that Rhett [Ellison] does. There's some things that Rhett is better than MyCole but there are some things MyCole is better at as well. We'll just have to look at that mix and figure out how we can kind of adapt.

Q: You mentioned last week that ever since the Seattle game the team's mentality has changed, what makes you think that?

A: I think you can just tell how we're playing. I think if you watch us play, without getting too specific, but if you went back and watched the Arizona, Chicago, Giants and last night - I think it just looks different to me. 

Q: What do you think caused that?

A: I think they've figured out how they have to play. We have to be a team that plays like that. We haven't earned anything, really, we have to go out and take it.

Q: Can you talk about all the energy that was expended during the second half of last night's game. How do you think they can recapture that for this week's game?

A: It's the playoffs. It's time.

Q: There was a photo taken of you on the bus after the win, what were you thinking in that moment as it looked like you had a big grin on your face?

A: I was probably reading the 60-something texts that I had and I was just laughing at them. I was probably laughing at some of the things people texted me. I had tons and tons of texts.

Q: Is there any one text that stands out to you?

A: It was from a lot of people that I don't hear from very often, as well. Most of them watched the game, obviously. I think they just liked how we played.

Q: Do you think you have a pretty good sense of appreciation from the fans on where you have taken this team in just two years?

A: I don't really pay that much attention to it, to be honest with you. Everyone is really nice to me. When I go out people say nice things to me but if we lose to Seattle it might change.

Q: Did you see an improvement on getting tacklers to the ball carrier last night?

A: Yeah, we did a much better job in the running game, yes. I thought we were physical upfront defensively. I thought the defensive line played well. Everybody played good defensively. We were much more physical. We got off of blocks better. That was a big key to it. We had to play the run-game – I know I saw someone said we had to play the run good in order to win, and they were right.

Q: Eric Kendricks seemed like he had one of his better nights, how did he look to you last night?
A: He did good. He started out getting out of position a couple of times early in the game. He made some really, really good plays at the end in the some of the passing situations. They were running a couple of tough combination-route plays that he did a really, really good job with. [Anthony] Barr also played well. Having Barr out there is huge because he is a heck of a football player, a good kid. He came up to me one time in the game and told me to keep calling this play. I said, "Okay, let it go." Harrison Smith, it's also nice having him out there. They're good players, good kids.

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